Crews perform burn off operations to remove fuel between a wildfire and the Eagle Plains Lodge on June 15. (Submitted/Wildland Fire Management)

Fire near Eagle Plains Lodge caused by lightning strike

13,000 lightning strikes happened in the Yukon the weekend of June 13 and 14

The rain the Yukon experienced in the last week resulted in a number of lightning strikes, some of which started wildfires.

Kat Hallett, a fire information officer with Wildland Fire Management, spoke with the News on June 18 about these fires.

She said over the weekend of July 13 and 14, there were 13,000 lightning strikes across the territory and nine active wildfires burning. Eight of these wildfires are in wilderness management zones.

“So in the wilderness management zone, the forested area has the highest ecological value,” Hallett said.

In these zones a fire is able to perform its natural role, she explained.

There are two fires caused by lightning strikes in the Eagle Plains area.

One is 60 kilometres west of Eagle Plains near the Whitestone Village and Chance Creek. According to Wildland’s fire map, as of June 17, this fire is 7,100 hectares and does not pose a risk to any community, infrastructure or lives.

The other is within three km of Eagle Plains Lodge and is 3,475 ha. Wildland crews have been fighting this fire and structural protections, like sprinklers, have been installed at the lodge for safety.

“They have completed a successful burn off, basically to remove fuel between the lodge and the Dempster highway,” Hallett said.

The fire is on the west side of the Dempster Highway. She explained that the east side has been guarded and patrolled using hand tools.

She adds that crews are reporting minimal fire activity.

“We did a scan last night (June 17) and that told us that the fire is really low right now,” Hallett said. “With the rain and cooler temperatures in the forecast for the weekend, we aren’t predicting changes in fire behaviour there.”

The fire is currently classified as being held. She feels the fire could be considered under control if the forecasted rain does occur.

She said this year’s fire season has been slow in starting. At this time last year, there were 19,000 ha burned, while a little over 12,000 ha are burning this year.

She credited the late start to natural causes rather than being related to decreased human activity due to the COVID-19 pandemic and health orders.

“In terms of it (wildfire season) starting a bit late, I think it was mostly due to the late snow melt,” Hallett said.

With campgrounds open since June 4, she offered some tips for campers having campfires, adding due to the rain there will be low to moderate danger ratings this weekend.

She reminds people to properly extinguish their campfires. This involves soaking the coals, stirring and repeating the process until the coals are cold to the touch.

If you see smoke from an unattended fire pit or a wildfire you can report it by calling 1-888-798-3473. She adds that information like the colour of the smoke, an estimated size, the location and landmarks would be useful information to share.

Contact Gord Fortin at gord.fortin@yukon-news.com

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